Summary: How God uses 1) The Preaching of the Word (Ezekiel 37:1-6), 2) The Prayer of God’s Servant (Ezekiel 37:7-9), and 3) The Power of the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 37:5-14) to accomplish Revival.
Ezekiel 37:1-14 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. 2 And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. 3 And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8 And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. 9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. 11 Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. 14 And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the LORD.” (ESV)
When people talk about what they want for 2021, they desire a type of revival to the life they previous knew before much of 2020, which many have described as just generally bleak. The good news is that biblically, revival often starts from times of despair. Historically revivals have followed three stages. First, under strong biblical preaching by people like Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennent, or George Whitefield, (many churchgoing people), who beforehand had thought they were Christians and that all was well with their souls, wake up to the fact that they are not Christians at all. In the American revivals under Edwards and his contemporary preachers, this was called the Great Awakening. Second, there is the revival itself, which means that those who had thought they were alive but were actually spiritually dead are revived. That is, they repent of their sin and become Christians. The third stage is when these churchgoing people who are now converted begin to live for Christ so openly and consistently, with noticeable changes of conduct, that the world outside takes notice and begins to press into the church to see what is happening. This is revival (Boice, J. M. (2005). Psalms 42–106: An Expositional Commentary (p. 698). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.).
The situation in Ezekiel 37 was bleak. It is proclaimed to the exiles, probably sometime between the dates presented in Chapter 33:21 and 40:1, around 572 B.C. (Lind, M. (1996). Ezekiel (p. 296). Scottdale, PA: Herald Press.) Israel was a defeated nation. It had been crushed militarily, its people had been separated from one another in exile, and it had suffered the inevitable result of its abandonment of the Lord. Alone, exhausted, discouraged, and impoverished, Israel was indeed as good as dead. (But the vision to Ezekiel was fitted to dispel such despondent reflections.) (Stuart, D., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1989). Ezekiel (Vol. 20, p. 332). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.)
How do we move on after times of discouragement or loss? It’s easy to see past greatness or success in relationships or opportunities and long for what was. God however doesn’t want us to live in the past, but consider what can be. Revival is God taking what seems hopeless and showing what He can do. Using human secondary means, God can accomplish what seems impossible from a human standpoint.